Being diagnosed with MS can be a scary and unsure time. Lots of questions come up in the process and produce many thoughts centered around ‘what if, how, and when’ concerns. It can be overwhelming to learn about the disease too as there is so much information available on it. But there’s no right or wrong way to start educating yourself and others about the condition. And it’s important to know that it’s not something that can or has to be learned overnight. I always tell clients to have patience with themselves and to learn things as they’re comfortable doing so. Everyone is different and approaches things in their own way and time and that is ok. Below are some commonly asked questions that arise during this period for many diagnosed and their loved ones.
Can I still work?
This question comes up often as individuals consider what their future may look like with MS. It will depend upon one’s symptoms and course of their disease, but many people do continue working in some capacity with their diagnosis. Job accommodations can be asked for to help modify work schedules, tasks, and routines. Vocational Rehabilitation offices located in counties throughout the country work with individuals who need assistance in finding/maintaining employment that meets their needs when managing disease symptoms and issues. Having a conversation with the doctor can help with this too. Evaluating any changes that could be beneficial in the workplace or considering whether to and if it’s the appropriate time to retire or apply for some type of disability benefits can be discussed. It’s a very personal and tailored decision that comes with a lot of thought and input. Finding what’s right for you can take some time and deliberation so again have patience with this process too. More information about Employment and MS can be found on MSAA’s website here, https://mymsaa.org/publications/employment-and-ms/.
How do I disclose my diagnosis to others and help them understand the disease?
Again this is something that has no right or wrong answer or way of going about it. When and if you decide to disclose your MS diagnosis to others is a personal and unique decision and can be done in different ways. Letting others know right away or waiting to tell them is something each person decides based on differing factors. Like their relationships with their family and friends—whomever is in their support network, their employer and colleagues, etc. Some people will seek out and find comfort and support by telling others. While some who may not receive the same level of care from those they know may decide to wait or not disclose. For those who show interest and want to learn more about MS there are many outlets in which they can do so. Using reputable MS sources of information online, watching educational videos, listening to podcasts and webinars are just some ways. There are many avenues to educate about the disease. For the latter individuals who may not have that inner-circle support, there are several ways to find these support resources elsewhere.
Is there support available?
Yes! And in more ways than one. This is a question some folks ask hesitantly because they’re not sure if this is something they want to pursue right out of the gate. This is completely understandable. Every person’s experience with MS is different so sometimes it can be intimidating and uneasy to interact with others who may have a different course with their MS—different symptoms and varying degrees of disease progression. But this too can be something that’s uniquely approached. People can choose to connect with others as they find it necessary and feel comfortable in doing so. And if they make the decision to, there are many avenues to try. There are MS organizations, support groups, and online communities, including MSAA’s peer support forum My MSAA Community, that individuals can turn to for information and support.
One of the most crucial things to know is that you do not have to go through the diagnosis alone. Whether just diagnosed or years into its course, you don’t have to do it by yourself.